Originally created 05/11/05

Quick: Sea scallops in sweet chili sauce



A simple marinade and some smartly combined seasonings give sea scallops just the right backup in this recipe from Martin Yan, popular master of Asian cuisine, cookbook author and television food-show host.

He says he doesn't cook with sea scallops often, but when he does he makes a mental note to use them more often. "These delicious, sweet white morsels of shellfish are hard not to like," he writes in "Martin Yan Quick and Easy" (Chronicle Books, 2004, $24.95 paperback), which has this recipe along with some 150 others.

You should find good-quality frozen scallops easily, in your supermarket's freezer section, he says. Thaw them in the refrigerator rather than at room temperature, to make sure they keep their natural juices, he advises.

"Don't marinate for longer than 10 minutes," he writes, "as the lime juice will begin to 'cook' the raw scallops and the flesh will become mushy on the stovetop."

Serve with steamed rice.

Sea Scallops in Sweet Chili Sauce

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon fish sauce (see note)

1 teaspoon grated ginger

1 pound sea scallops

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

¼ cup sweet chili sauce (see note)

2 tablespoons chicken broth

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

To make the marinade, combine lime juice, fish sauce and ginger in a bowl and mix well. Add the scallops and stir to coat evenly. Let stand for 10 minutes. Drain the scallops and pat dry with paper towels.

Heat a wide, nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add the oil, swirling to coat the bottom. When the oil is hot, add the scallops and pan-fry, turning once, until golden-brown, about 2 minutes on each side.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the sweet chili sauce and broth. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and simmer until the sauce thicken slightly, about 2 minutes. Transfer the scallops to a serving plate. Drizzle with the chili sauce, garnish with the cilantro and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Note: "Fish sauce is an all-purpose amber-colored, salty flavoring agent made by pressing out the liquid from fermented anchovy-like fish," Yan writes. "It is used to season dishes as they cook and as a table condiment, and is as common in Southeast Asia as soy sauce is in China. Once you open the bottle, the fish sauce will become more pungent with age. Store in the refrigerator if you do not use it often."

Yan describes sweet chili sauce, made from ground red chilies, sugar, garlic and salt, as a thick sauce that is "a wonderful combination of sweet, spicy and tangy flavors. It is traditionally used as a dipping sauce, but can also be used as a glaze, or it can be added to other sauces to deliver a spicy punch to a dish. Store in the refrigerator after opening."